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More than fire heats up Gordon Ramsay's kitchen as he searches for the scion of his new LA eatery.

Recaps by Don Harpwood, GSNN

Host: Gordon Ramsay
Maitre D'
: Jean Philippe Susilovic
Sous-chefs: Scott Liebfried, Maryann Salcedo
Narrator: Jason Thompson
EP: Paul Jackson, Arthur Smith, Kent Weed
Packager: Granada Entertainment, A. Smith & Co.
Airs: Mondays at 8:00pm ET on Fox

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"Ready for Hell?" - May 30

"If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."  This saying couldn't be any more true here, as 12 people enter Hell's Kitchen, each with the hopes of running their own restaurant.  But first, they'll have to endure running one together, as well as top chef Gordon Ramsay, who won't accept anything less than perfection.  And the way he'll be running things, those 12 can most definitely expect to go through Hell.

You mean we're starting NOW?

After the show's intro, we see the group of 12 as they had just arrived at the restaurant known appropriately as Hell's Kitchen.  They may be relaxed and happy to be there now, but that's only because Ramsay isn't there yet. After they get some time to socialize, the maitre d' of this restaruant, Jean Philippe, arrives and gathers the group around him.  He introduces the sous-chefs, Maryann and Scott, who remind the group that they'll be the second-in-command in the kitchen.  They then give the 12 their first test: Each of them will have to make their "signature dish", that is meant to say something about who they are.  And they'll have to do this in 45 minutes, at which time Chef Ramsay will arrive.

They go right to the kitchen to begin the task, starting to prepare their dishes individually.  After a few more contestants are introduced, time runs out, and the dishes are all lined up, covered, and on a table with the 12 wannabe chefs lined up, standing a few feet away.  Gordon Ramsay enters and formally welcomes the group to the kitchen.  He then goes right to the tasting of the dishes, uncovering them one at a time.

Andrew (24, an office assistant from Livingston, NJ) - His dish is what he calls "Andrew's Absolute Penne".  You know that Ramsay is not impressed at all when he spits it right back out and calls it "absolute dog ****".  He gets Andrew to taste it himself, and after admitting that it could use some salt, he is asked about his experience (10 years worth), which Ramsay refers to as "a waste of 10 years".  Ouch.

Mary Ellen (27, a bartender from Belmont, MA) - Her dish is an endive salad with toasted walnuts.  Ramsay considers it to be boring.

Wendy (32, an account manager from Milburn, NJ) - She went with fried rice with Chinese sausage.  She said that if she knew Ramsay was coming, she would have put lobster in it.  Okay, how could you not know that he was coming, if you were told at the beginning of the task that he was coming?  Needless to say, Ramsay didn't waste any more time with this one.

Jimmy (25, a purchasing supervisor from Williston Park, NY) - He made pan-seared chicken breast stuffed with Portobello mushroom and goat cheese.  After comparing its looks to that of a type of turd, Ramsay asks Jimmy to taste the greens (tops of carrots) next to the dish.  He admits that they're quite bitter, then Ramsay flicks those greens off the plate and at Jimmy, and tastes the food, spitting it on the ground right away.  Ramsay notes that it's dry, overcooked on the outside, and raw on the inside.

Ralph (36, a chef from Livingston, NJ) - A seared rare tuna with some hot and cold sesame noodles is his dish, and Ramsay was definitely not impressed at all, making it apparent when, after Ralph mentioned that he was the #1 chef at another restaurant, he retorted with, "With that ****?"

Elsie (40, an executive assistant from Maywood, NJ) - She chose to make turkey tacos.  Ramsay starts by saying that her dish looks disastrous, but after tasting, he says it's "not bad".

Dewberry (33, a pastry chef from Stockbridge, GA) - He made baked spaghetti.  Ramsay says it's overcooked, and it's like children's food.

Chris (35, an executive chef from Yorktown Heights, NY) - His dish is salmon roast on a plank of cedar.  After calling Chris a plank (by which he means "idiot"), Ramsay points out that the salmon is raw on the bottom.  Chris refutes that it's medium-rare.  But Ramsay isn't buying that for a second, saying that Chris should clean his glasses.

Jeff (28, a finance manager from Orange, NJ) - He went with what appears to be a type of steak (the name of this dish wasn't mentioned).  Ramsay complimented the sauce, but then he says that the mushrooms are a bit salty, and the steak was overcooked.  His rank (out of 10): 1.

Jessica (26, a headhunter from Huntington, NY) - She made soft-shell crabs cooked slightly Cajun style with a spicy ailoi.  It seems to be a little too hot, as Ramsay drinks some water right after tasting, before saying that the spices are indeed way too hot.

Michael (27, a chef from Fort Collins, CO) - He made scallops, but after he stumbled with his answer to Ramsay's question of whether or not he likes the roe that was left on the scallops, they both tasted that part.  Michael thought it wasn't that bad, but Ramsay's opinion was different, comparing Michael's palate to a cow's backside.  Eww.

Carolann (33, a server's assistant from Dallas, TX) - Chicken parmigiana was her dish, but she admitted to not having much cooking experience at all.  But Ramsay actually complimented the presentation, then tasted the food.  And more surprisingly, he thought it tasted quite nice.  (Figures that the one with the least experience makes the best first impression.  And that's saying a lot.)

Overall, Chef Ramsay noted that there was very little promise in this group, but he says he could make anyone into a master chef, and mentions the prize awaiting the winner of this competition, which is their own dream restaurant.  He then divides the chefs into 2 teams: blue and red.  No fancy team names, just blue and red.  And this is how they were divided:

Blue: Andrew, Mary Ellen, Jessica, Wendy, Ralph, Michael
Jimmy, Elsie, Dewberry, Chris, Carolann, Jeff

Chef Ramsay then gives the group the advice to be prepared for anything and everything.  After he leaves, sous-chef Scott directs them to the dorms where they'll be staying during the competition.  The dorms happen to be located near the kitchens, so they won't have to go far when it's time to cook.  How convenient.

Right into the fire

They get 30 minutes to socialize and put on their chef's jackets, and then they're right back out in the dining room, where Chef Ramsay is waiting.  And this is when he drops a surprise: Hell's Kitchen is opening that night!  That's right, the restaurant will be welcoming its first customers that night, and despite the lack of skills among the group, they'll have to cook all the food!  I hope the customers aren't expecting much...

After mentioning that there will be a losing team and that someone from that team is going home, Ramsay gets them right into their respective kitchens to start preparing for the opening.  Yes, there are 2 kitchens, and simply enough, they're colour-coded to match the team colours.  And the dining room is also divided equally, with the colour of the plates on each table corresponding to the team serving that table.  Also, each team will have a sous-chef available (Maryann for red, Scott for blue), but they're only there to guide and consult the teams.  The teams had only a few hours to learn how to prepare a set of dishes that would be served that night, as well as to get acquainted with their respective kitchens.  It's a hectic few hours, as not only are the teams getting ready, but so is the staff hired to take care of everything else in the restaurant.

With 15 minutes left, Chef Ramsay gathers the teams for one more brief talk.  He mentions that service is also important in running a successful restaurant, and then he assigns Ralph and Jeff to be waiters for their respective sides.  (As if the lack of cooking skills on each side weren't enough to lower my expectations of the quality of food from these teams...)  Those two are sent to the dining room to meet with Jean Philippe for a quick briefing, and the rest continue preparing for the opening.  Ralph thinks he would have been better off in the kitchen, and Jeff is just wondering where the red team's tables are.  (Here's a clue: look for red plates.)

The Not-so-Grand Opening

The clock strikes 7PM, and Hell's Kitchen is open for business.  The customers gather in, the tables begin to fill up, and Ralph and Jeff begin taking their first orders.  Ralph gets his first order into the blue kitchen, and once Ramsay has announced what it is, the team shows little excitement.  Yeah, you can see where this is going.  Ramsay criticizes the lack of excitement, calling the blue team "wimps", before repeating the order.  This time, the team shows some form of enthusiasm (it may have been forced, I don't know).  And on the red side, Jeff apparently has to ask the maitre d' what to do with his first order before Ramsay tells him to just hand it over.  Talk about incompetent.  As the orders pile in on both sides, Elsie is the first to complete a dish for evaluation; a risotto.  Unfortunately, it's so rock-solid that when Ramsay holds the plate sideways, the food stays right on the plate, not moving an inch.  Ramsay was disappointed, and threw it in the trash, asking for it to be started again.  And that was just the beginning, as both teams went one hour without any tables being served any food.  Can't say I'd be surprised with this.

A group of 4 blonde-haired ladies at a blue table is understandably starting to lose patience, and Ralph has to assure them that no one is getting served before them.  But in the blue kitchen, Michael is worried about the lack of lobster pasta, and at that point, he inquires about it, to which Ramsay asks if there are live lobsters.  Michael once again stumbles through his answer, before saying that there are, and Ramsay tells him to get those lobsters cooked.  Back at one of the blue tables, the ladies are still losing patience, and Ralph politely makes the suggestion for them to go see the chef themselves.  So 2 of them do, but they are greeted rudely as Ramsay asks them to shut up, then turns and tells the blue team to ignore them, going so far as to call them "bimbos".  The ladies return to the table to tell the other 2 what happened, and one of them says that the people there were "impolite".  I think "impolite" would be an understatement.

At 8:19PM, some of the red tables finally receive some starter dishes, and then the entrees are almost ready, with one thing left to do: a piece of salmon from Chris.  Yeah, the guy that couldn't tell medium-rare from raw earlier.  And as expected, he screwed it up, overcooking it this time.  Ramsay shoves the dish into Chris' chest and gets him to start over.  He thinks that Ramsay will eventually recognize his "talent", though.  Right, and I'll eat a hat covered in dirt.  Anyway, that screw-up also meant that the whole table had to be re-done.  Ouch.  Meanwhile, Jimmy said that he wasn't going to take anything from Ramsay, but when Ramsay criticizes one of Jimmy's dishes, comparing it to a dog's dinner and shoving it into his chest, Jimmy just cowers back and starts it again.  Yeah, way to stand up to him, Jimmy.

We get to 9PM, and still, no entrees have been served yet.  Andrew tries to call Ramsay over to ask if his dish is okay, but Ramsay gives a brief lecture about who walks over to whom about the dish, and just tells him to put it on the hot plate for evaluation and get going on something else.  Meanwhile, in the red kitchen, Elsie has another risotto ready, and this time, it gets approved by Ramsay.  Good to see someone is learning, and doing something right.  Then, Jimmy has his own chance to redeem himself and get a dish ready.  But instead of taking some lamb out of an oven with tongs, he grabbed the hot plate that the lamb is on with his hands, using rags to hopefully keep from burning himself.  That didn't work.  He burned himself, dropping the food and spilling grease on his left hand.  Oh my.  As he goes to try to cool down his hands, Elsie points out that Carolann is just standing around and doing nothing.  Ramsay also seems to notice this, and gets Carolann going, mentioning that they still need to serve at least one main course.

When Jimmy returns, Ramsay tells him that a certain table is still waiting for an order, then he has to tell Jeff once again that that order is not ready.  Jeff asks again, and Ramsay says no again.  Jeff then has to tell the waiting table that it's not ready, and to be patient.  The customers have no patience, though.  Back at one of the blue tables, the 4 ladies are STILL waiting for their entrees, and 2 of them who stayed at the table before decide to go see the chef.  They ask about why Ramsay was rude earlier, and why he told the first 2 to "**** off".  Ramsay simply says to let them know that he meant it, then asks Jean Philippe to escort them away from the kitchens.  Ramsay then repeats an order to the blue team that still needs to be done, but Ralph has to deliver the bad news: the group that that order was for is gone.  Looks like the ladies have had enough.

At 9:30PM, entrees are finally being served from the red kitchen.  Minutes later, the blue kitchen finally gets some entrees served as well.  But other customers have lost all patience, and are leaving the restaurant.  Ramsay is still trying to whip the contestants into shape, but the incompetence is still flowing from them, and he is understandably frustrated at how the night has gone.  Finally, after more of the same thing, he's had enough, as he makes the decision to shut down the kitchens, and tells both teams to stop cooking.  He then asks Jean Philippe at 10:15PM to have the restaurant closed down for the night.  He delivers the bad news to a table, and the customers there are unsurprisingly disappointed.

Who was worse?

With all the customers gone and the restaurant closed for the night, Chef Ramsay now has to pick one losing team.  Yes, just one.  Unfortunately.  From what was written on the customer comment cards, Ramsay points out that over half of the red team's customers' experience was below-average, and only one dessert was served, but at least whoever got that dessert was satisfied with that.  He then points out that no one liked Jeff as a waiter, and 2/3 of the customers at his tables left early.  Over with the blue team, most of the customers at Ralph's table thought his service was outstanding, then mentioned that Andrew managed 4 desserts, though no one liked them.  So with that, Chef Ramsay decides that the losing team is... the red team.  Ramsay then decides that since Elsie did learn from her mistakes as they went along (as shown by the improved risotto in her second attempt), she would have to nominate two of her teammates for elimination.  She would have 30 minutes to decide, while she and the others had to return to the dorms until then.

As the group sits outside in a porch-like area, Jimmy feels that his position is that of a hopeless one, feeling that he let the team down several times, so he's ready to accept that he may be going home.  Elsie pulls Dewberry aside and into a room, where after he starts babbling about the idea of leaving, she let's him know that he's not going anywhere.  Jeff confides to Wendy that he thinks he'll be the first one gone.  Elsie then retreats to another room alone to think about her decision.

Getting burned

The 30 minutes have passed.  In the dining room, the blue team sits at a table to watch as the red team enters for the nomination and elimination.  Ramsay asks for the first nomination, and Elsie chooses... Carolann, because she feels that someone with a lack of experience in the kitchen overall should be going home.  Ramsay asks for the second nomination, and Elsie chooses... Dewberry, because -  Wait a minute.  Dewberry?  Didn't she tell him minutes beforehand that he wasn't going anywhere?  Well, anyway, she apparently chose him because he didn't show much interest and energy in what was happening.  It's strange that Elsie didn't pick either Jimmy or Jeff, and Ramsay points that out by mentioning how they dodged bullets this time.

Chef Ramsay then asks Carolann and Dewberry to step forward and give him a reason for why they should stay.  Carolann says not to underestimate someone who lacks experience.  Dewberry goes with the obvious argument that he does have more experience.  With that, Ramsay takes a little time to ponder his decision, noting that it's a hard one, and we see flashbacks of him basically telling each of them to quit slacking off.

And so, after some brief thought, Chef Ramsay tells Carolann that she shouldn't have turned her back on the team, and she herself didn't show any interest until she was told to do something.  Therefore, Carolann is no longer needed at Hell's Kitchen.  (Figures that the one who makes the best first impression is the first one going home.  And that doesn't really say much, IMO.)  She turns in her chef's jacket, packs up, and leaves. 

So, what's my take on Hell's Kitchen so far?  I like it.  The surprises have been interesting thus far, and I think Chef Ramsay's method of discipline should eventually prove effective enough in making these contestants better in the long run.  Though I do wonder if, during the contestant selection process, they just pulled 12 random names from a barrel or something...

Next week, things will literally heat up, as the contestants will be working without air conditioning, the customers will be angrier than before, and it'll apparently be too much for someone to handle.

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